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Workforce Group Wants Cradle-to-Career Pipeline, Biz-Controlled Branch Campus for Sioux Falls

In addition to calling for more gravy for marketers, the Sioux Falls Area Strategic Workforce Action Agenda also says a few things about education—er, “talent development”. The general idea, of course, is that schools exist to create workers, because Arbeit Macht Frei:

Though educators at both the secondary and post-secondary levels sometimes balk at the notion that they are working to prepare “product” for the consumption of local employers in the form of skilled and qualified graduates, there can be no denying that the alignment of local training pipelines with the jobs being created in the regional economy improves not only the chances of graduates to find quality work but also the ability of companies to sustainably expand their businesses [Market Street Services, “Sioux Falls Area Strategic Workforce Action Agenda,” June 2015, p. 17].

Students as “product”? Balk balk!

The task force members (only two of whom, Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty and Augustana Colliversity president Rob Oliver, are directly involved in education) know just what to do with education to improve their workforce situation. First, we must combat the bias against blue-collar work (says a 16-person task force that includes no blue-collar workers) with more marketing to save kids from going to colliversity:

What an internal marketing campaign focused on the benefits of the skilled trades can do, however, is let parents and students understand that there are viable and lucrative options to a traditional four-year degree path [“SFASWAA,” June 2015, p. 17].

We need to spend lots of money and hire lots of people to run that marketing:

An under-resourced or overly simplistic internal marketing initiative will not be successful. If greater Sioux Falls is going to do this, it must be done aggressively, sustainably, and with sufficient capacity to target all necessary audiences. Based on the approved program design, it is likely that a resource campaign or funding partnership will be necessary to activate, manage, and maintain the initiative. An entity will need to be identified to staff the campaign and make adjustments in coordination with key partners to best position the program for success. Eventually, if everything goes to plan, the need for the marketing effort will diminish over time as the message promoting skilled-trades opportunities becomes more culturally ingrained. Until that point, however, regional leaders must not waver in their commitment to address critical talent shortages in career and technical occupations by expanding the labor pipeline for these positions [emphasis original; “SFASWAA,” June 2015, p. 18].

(Yeah, but with the current workforce shortage, you’ll have a hard time hiring marketing staff, so you’ll need to create an aggressive marketing program to recruit marketers, and then we’re going to need more turtles.)

The task force report then resorts to scary language like forging a “cradle-to-career pipeline”, meaning apparently that we craft everything from preschool programs (SFASWAA calls for more) to adult internships to support the needs of employers. The message here: your job is your life.

Reacting with alarm to the decline of enrollment at University Center, the Sioux Falls task force asks not only for an expansion of offerings at University Center but a branch four-year campus for Sioux Falls:

An interesting model for Sioux Falls would be Rochester, Minnesota. While the community has recently become the latest metro to get a University of Minnesota branch campus, that facility is solely targeted on degree needs of area businesses, particularly the behemoth Mayo Clinic. A University Center in Rochester that existed before the creation of the University of Minnesota campus continues to offer local degrees in collaboration with two- and four-year institutional partners. Thus, the Sioux Falls Area could get its own four-year branch campus, likely an affiliate of the University of South Dakota, but still offer beneficial degree opportunities at the University Center. The USD campus would create degree programs wholly informed by business community needs and non-duplicative of existing University Center offerings [emphasis original; “SFASWAA,” June 2015, pp. 28–29].

Translation: leave the liberal arts at Augustana; we’ll finally get Sioux Falls a Regental campus, but by gum, we business people will control it!

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that a bunch of business people get together and lay out an agenda that is about nothing but business. It’s up to the rest of us to remind them (and the policymakers whom these deep-pocketed boosters will be lobbying) that there is more to life than our laboring for their profit.


  1. Kathy Tyler 2015-09-23 08:02

    This is reminiscent of the Governor’s Workforce Summits–the employers who can’t find employees telling the state/city to train people for them..create the pipeline. Again, I see no mention of wages. Has anyone ever asked students why they don’t stay in South Dakota or why they feel there is a shortage of workers? Quit theorizing and get the facts.

  2. Douglas Wiken 2015-09-23 09:39

    Sioux Falls made a deal. They wanted the prison and not the universities. The taxpayers of South Dakota have no obligation to spend millions undoing that stupid decision by Sioux Falls.

  3. David Newquist 2015-09-23 14:16

    This “agenda” is an atrocity on the English language. I am stunned that certain persons listed on the task force would allow their names to be associated with it. jAn example is this passage, which you have referenced in a previous post:
    “Forward Sioux Falls should contribute resources to support the expansion of the campaign to high-value external markets. These should be decided based on research into incumbent talent bases of prospect markets and skills concentrations that match the needs of Sioux Falls Area employers.”

    There is not one word in that inane tangle of jargon that names a concrete fact. If that report were submitted to a panel of literate people who actually read it first, it would be ridiculed as a prime example of sophomoric pretense. It is predicted on the verb “should,’ as in what someone ought to do. On what authority of fact-based knowledge are the presumed authors of this report telling other people what to do? And why are they getting away with it?

    If some of those task force members actually endorsed this report and its recommendations, they are going to have to face responsibility for it in their future endeavors. For them, it is portentous.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-23 21:58

    I believe there is a glaring omission in the comparison to Rochester. The only true part is that they did get a University of Minnesota medical school this year.

    Rochester has requested that campus for years. The U did not try to force a school into the town, then create a nonexistent demand. There are plenty of students wanting spots there.

    Jenny, you would know. If I’ve totally screwed that up, tell me privately so the glow of my embarrassed face doesn’t light up the interweb tubes.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-23 22:02

    That whole “people as product” is just icky. They’d like a “Brave New World” state of South Dakota.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-23 22:17

    Deb, you balk at that notion? Come now, next you’ll be telling me humans have an inherent dignity independent of their jobs and economic productivity. Where did you get such liberal ideas, some college?

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-24 15:04

    Yes Cory. I learned such things at that bastion of left wing radicality, Northern State College, Aberdeen, South Dakota.

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